Ignat Ignatov | Around the World

Place du teatre, oil, 24 x 20 by Ignat Ignatov
Place du teatre, oil, 24 x 20 by Ignat Ignatov

By Virginia Campbell

If you were pressed to name an artist who hailed from Bulgaria, you would undoubtedly, if you remembered, name Christo. He is the original “environmental” artist who wrapped a large chunk of Australian coastline in white plastic in 1969 and, more recently, created a series of orange fabric gates in New York City’s Central Park. The painter Ignat Ignatov was born in Bulgaria eight years after Christo put his monumental albeit temporary mark on the coast of Australia—and there the similarity pretty much ends. “We were introduced to Christo at my art school,” Ignatov says, “and I thought he was original and interesting.” In terms of his own interests and ambitions in art, however, it’s perhaps helpful to think of Ignatov as the anti-Christo.

Ignatov’s written statement about his art includes the following sentence: “My goal is to seek representations of today’s world using the Traditional Realism as a tool.” That’s capital “T” and capital “R,” because, explains Ignatov, “It is a style of painting. I could say ‘representational painting,’ but not just ‘realism,’ because in contemporary art, realism is often associated with a tight, photographic quality, and that is not my approach. I like loose brush strokes. That’s why I like the paintings of Sargent and Sorolla and that line of painters going back to Rembrandt, who had very loose brush strokes for his time.”

You can see the influence of these gestural painters throughout Ignatov’s paintings, which include figures, portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. “What I love about Sargent is the confidence of his painting,” says Ignatov, and you can see that quality too in Ignatov’s paintings of trees that splash against a cerulean sky, of fried eggs that take on an unlikely cubist cast, of women’s faces that breathe with a contemporary absence of sentimentality, and of figures with modern body language and old master hues across their features.

Ignatov has had notable success in gallery representation, been accepted into the Oil Painters of America and the California Art Club, and supports himself by selling paintings and teaching a bit on the side. Still, he lives and works modestly in a small space in Southern California and announces that he’d “really like to have a studio with good light.”

Of course, Ignatov is not yet even 30, and it would be silly to doubt that a studio with good light and a great deal more will be coming to him. His talent across multiple genres is unmistakable, for one thing. His desire and energy are high-octane, for another. His timing’s not bad, either, inasmuch as he’s come to the United States armed with many years of traditional art instruction at a time when a large percentage of young artists here are starved for academic training. And beyond all those factors, he’s got the kind of good luck that comes to optimistic people…

Featured in September 2007
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